Zakat Foundation of America donors have flicked the light switch on for thousands of school children in rural Pakistan previously without electricity. The project, called Solar on Schools (SOS), is literally electrifying.
“Solar on Schools provides renewable, sustainable sources of solar panel-generated electricity for schools serving poor children in rural Pakistan,” said Bilal Ahmed, head administrator of Stellargenesys, the nonprofit Zakat Foundation leaders have struck a partnership with for the fittingly named SOS. “‘The children are thrilled just to have a running fan in their sweltering class room,’ one school principal told me last summer.”
The solar project’s benefit goes far beyond fans and lights. Childhood educational neglect has proven one of Pakistan’s biggest problems. Most school-aged children have no access to school or cannot afford to go. Electricity availability, scarce even in the nation’s urban areas and even more starkly in the deprived countryside, forms the main obstacle to enrollment.
“Last year, we installed solar power in the Ibrahim Oasis school and attendance instantly shot up to 400 children from 250,” Ahmed said. Similar registration jumps took place in other SOS schools. “This, God willing, will pay major dividends in the long run not only in these rural communities but for the country.”
It is not just the lights. SOS pays other real returns to these schools and nearby villages. They save precious funds previously spent on cash-guzzling fuel and noise-polluting generators. “We used to have to choose between sweltering heat or hearing the lesson,” Ahmed said one SOS school manager told him.
Zakat Foundation contributors electrified their first school, which had no prior governmental provision for electricity, in August 2016. SOS has lit up 17 rural schools across Pakistan since.
“We first intended to provide outlying healthcare clinics with solar electricity to refrigerate vaccines and medicines,” said Halil Demir, Zakat Foundation’s executive director. Complications in identifying and serving these far-flung facilities caused delays, “but along the way saw all these school children with virtually no electricity. We said, let’s give them light, and SOS was born.”
Honed by its success in lighting up farming community schools, Zakat Foundation has sliced through the red tape and gained approval to install solar electricity for three rural healthcare clinics in what will become Phase III of the SOS project in 2019.
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In 2022, 91¢ from each dollar donated went directly toward programs serving those in need. 4¢ went to administrative costs & 5¢ went to fundraising costs.